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Cybersecurity Health: What it is and how to comply with HIPAA

Infrastructure security breaches damage healthcare organizations. A vulnerability in a hospital’s cybersecurity network could expose sensitive patient data to those with malicious intent to use and take advantage of it.

Electronic health records can be encrypted and rendered useless by cybercriminals who often demand a ransom in exchange for your encryption key. And confidential data can be sold all over the world.

For a healthcare company to remain compliant with the guidelines and requirements set forth by legislation such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Under this law, healthcare organizations must protect the personal information of their patients and customers. HIPAA is a federally passed law in the United States that protects confidential health information from being released without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

Due to growing threats, healthcare organizations everywhere are stepping up their cybersecurity investment, increasing their IT budgets and hiring professionals with at least some cybersecurity training. These security experts are responsible for keeping vast amounts of patient information secure and accessible only to authorized employees and affiliates.

Continue reading the article and learn how cybersecurity technologies and processes work in healthcare.

What is HIPAA Compliance?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets the standard for protecting sensitive patient data. Companies dealing with protected health information must have physical, network and process security measures in place and follow them to ensure compliance with HIPAA.

Entities that provide treatment, payment, and operations in healthcare, as well as business partners that have access to patient information and support treatment, payment, or operations, must meet HIPAA compliance. Other entities, such as subcontractors and any other related business associates, must also comply with legislation.

What is the need for HIPAA compliance?

 The HHS (The United States Department of Health and Human Services) points out that healthcare providers and other entities that handle any health information that can be linked to an individual will migrate to computerized operations. These operations include computerized medical order entry (CPOE) systems, electronic health records (EHR) and radiology, pharmacy and laboratory systems. So HIPAA compliance is more important than ever.

Likewise, health plans offer access to claims, care management and self-service applications. While all of these electronic methods provide greater efficiency and mobility, they also dramatically increase the security risks faced by health data.

Cybersecurity is in place to protect the privacy of individuals’ health information, while allowing covered entities to adopt new technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care.

 Policies, procedures, and technologies must be implemented that are appropriate to the entity’s size, organizational structure, and risks to patient and consumer ePHI.

What processes and procedures are required for HIPAA compliance?

 HHS requires physical and technical safeguards for organizations that host sensitive patient data. Physical protections include:

  • Limited access and control of facilities with authorized on-site access.
  • Policies for use and access to workstations and electronic media.
  • Restrictions on transferring, removing, disposing and reusing electronic media and ePHI.

Along the same lines, HIPAA technical safeguards require access control allowing only authorized personnel to access ePHI:

  • Using unique user identities, emergency access procedures, automatic logoff, and encryption and decryption.
  • Audit reports or trace logs that record hardware and software activity.

Other technical policies for HIPAA compliance must cover integrity controls or measures implemented to confirm that the ePHI is not altered or destroyed.

IT disaster recovery and offsite backup are key components that ensure electronic media errors and failures are quickly corrected so that patient health information is retrieved accurately and intact. A final technical safeguard is network or transmission security which ensures that HIPAA compliant hosts protect against unauthorized access to the ePHI.

 This protection addresses all methods of data transmission, including email, internet, or private networks, including cloud infrastructure.

To help ensure HIPAA compliance, the US government passed a supplementary law, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which increases penalties for healthcare organizations that violate privacy rules and HIPAA security.

The HITECH Act was implemented due to the development of health technology and the increase in the use, storage and transmission of electronic health information.

Why does HIPAA need cybersecurity?

 HIPAA helps protect sensitive patient health information, including treatment details, test results, personally identifiable data, and demographic information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent.

In order to better protect a patient’s personal health records, the HIPAA Security Rule specifies that covered entities must maintain protection for electronically protected health information (ePHI) and ensure that protection can defend the organization from any type of physical, administrative or technical violation.

This can be done through an effective cybersecurity strategy, but to avoid complications or sensitive data breaches, it’s important to consider the following best practices.

Protect patient data in transit or at storage

 All data that healthcare providers store is extremely confidential. While only available to authorized personnel, this data is highly valuable to a malicious actor and can be easily accessed if not managed properly. To better protect this information, healthcare systems must protect patient data during transit and during storage.

 Both data in storage and data in transit are valuable and vulnerable to attackers. By providing quality security measures for both data sources, we can ensure that data is protected in any state.

 We can better protect data in storage by encrypting sensitive files before storing them on a device, or even encrypting the storage device itself. The same goes for data in transit. Companies can encrypt sensitive data before transporting it and use encrypted connections (through HTTPS, SSL, TLS, FTPS, etc.)

 For example, when a confidential email is sent with test results from a lab, companies use an encryption program to hide its contents. Encryption is a prominent tool used to secure data and should be implemented in all practices to better protect patient data and maintain HIPAA compliance.

Ensure remote service security

 With millions of people still connecting to their healthcare providers via remote access, internal IT teams need to ensure that remote security and patient details are protected in the process. Not only must your remote technology meet HIPAA security and privacy standards, it must also meet the diverse needs of your patients seeking long-term care.

 It is important for providers to set clear guidelines for the remote use of healthcare tools and understand how HIPAA requirements affect remote work environments.

 With healthcare organizations increasingly using technology for day-to-day operations such as video conferencing, data-sharing platforms and project management systems, it is especially important to be careful about which tools can handle protected health information.

 Companies can also support remote answering security by providing staff with pre-configured devices that meet security requirements and use encrypted virtual private networks (VPNs) to protect online activity.

 Providers will need to access electronic health record systems while working remotely, which poses a potential threat to businesses as employees access information through unsecured home internet connections. By implementing VPNs, providers can provide a secure, encrypted line of communication between the office network and the home network.

Protect IoMT devices from cyber attacks

 Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices pose a significant challenge for many organizations. The reason is that these devices are more difficult to monitor and secure than other cordless tools. While healthcare continues to grow as one of the sectors most targeted by cybercriminals, security teams must find a way to protect them efficiently and effectively.

 Some quick ways to secure IoMT devices can be to simply change passwords or add passwords to your network. Companies can also address network vulnerabilities, employ detection controls to better monitor network traffic, or introduce network segmentation to prevent unauthorized agents from accessing data anywhere on the system. These, among others, can help healthcare providers stay ahead of potential attacks and help secure the network.

A holistic approach to health cybersecurity

 HIPAA rules are not enough to resist cybercrime. Looking at exactly what this law requires, it doesn’t necessarily align with cybersecurity best practices.

 Furthermore, healthcare organizations should not view cybersecurity and HIPAA compliance as separate components, but rather as two concepts that work in parallel with each other. In fact, a robust cybersecurity program supports compliance.

 To ensure cybersecurity in healthcare and prevent sophisticated attacks, healthcare organizations can implement the following practices:

  • Review your current security risk analysis and identify gaps and areas for improvement. Verify risk analysis is documented to ensure regulatory compliance.
  • Evaluate risk management plans to ensure measures to mitigate vulnerabilities are identified. Adopt the best practices used in the health area. It is mandatory to use unique identities, strong passwords, role-based permissions, automatic timeout and screen lock.
  • Compare HIPAA and other cyber policies and procedures with legal and regulatory obligations and ensure they are updated based on the results of your most recent risk analysis.
  • Expect the unexpected. Prepare security incident response plans that meet the requirements of HIPAA and other applicable laws so your business is ready to respond to a potential data breach. Also, leave some time in your strategy for the unexpected. This can include everything from cyber attacks to natural disasters threatening your health records and other vital assets.
  • Create backups and develop a recovery plan. While creating backups seems like a common sense thing, this practice can be lost in a small practice environment. Making sure the media used to store your backup data is secure and cannot be wiped out by an attack that would bring down your office systems.
  • Execute additional investments in people, processes, technology and management. The defense of digital assets can no longer be delegated to IT alone. Instead, security planning needs to be combined with new products and services, security, development plans, and business initiatives.

You can’t afford to neglect cybersecurity or compliance. That’s why it’s critical to combine them into a secure network that protects your patients and your reputation.

How Privileged Access Management is mapped to HIPAA compliance 

PAM solutions give administrators the ability to control access to systems that manage confidential protected health information (PHI) or electronic protected health information (EPHI).

The best PAM solutions ensure that only authenticated, authorized and approved connections are established. They provide a complete audit trail showing the “who, what, when, where and why” of patient data access.

The following is a look at some existing HIPAA standards and understand how PAM can address intended security and compliance requirements.

  • Implement policies and procedures to prevent, detect, contain and correct security breaches: A PAM solution provides ways to define the IT control environment. If configured correctly, the PAM solution provides security measures to ensure proper confidentiality, integrity, and access authorization/authentication for ePHI. Access control can be based on user groups and devices, integrated with time, location and granular workflows.
  • Identify the security officer responsible for developing and implementing the policies and procedures required by this subpart for the entity: PAM can ensure that security officers are able to define and implement privileged access to the system. As additional control, this individual should not be able to access the underlying privileged systems themselves, but only have admin rights on the PAM solution. This segregation of duties, as enforced by a PAM solution, is the essence of effective compliance.
  • Implement policies and procedures to ensure that all members of your workforce have adequate access to electronically protected health information and to prevent workforce members who do not have access to electronically protected health information: A PAM solution is capable of creating administrative user profiles and group profiles with ePHI access privileges such as View, Modify, Run and None.
  • Implement technical policies and procedures for electronic information systems that maintain electronically secure health information to allow access only to persons or software programs that have been granted access rights: This standard is about PAM, the central authentication and authorization of all users. This feature reduces the risk of access by former employees and unauthorized third parties, for example.

Implement policies and procedures to limit physical access to your electronic information systems and the facilities in which they are hosted, while ensuring that properly authorized access is allowed: The best PAM solutions manage the passwords of target devices so that users and third parties are never aware of the password and therefore cannot access devices locally.

As with any type of compliance, the ultimate challenge is to establish controls and keep the cost down. The IT environments found in most healthcare organizations are heterogeneous devices, systems and applications.

Monitoring, analyzing and reporting connected sessions can be cost prohibitive. Resources for compliance are finite. At a minimum, these resources are often needed for more strategic projects. senhasegura offers a complete approach to the privileged access management aspects of HIPAA compliance.

Schedule a demo with our experts and find out why senhasegura can meet your needs.

About Version 2
Version 2 is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About Senhasegura
Senhasegura strive to ensure the sovereignty of companies over actions and privileged information. To this end, we work against data theft through traceability of administrator actions on networks, servers, databases and a multitude of devices. In addition, we pursue compliance with auditing requirements and the most demanding standards, including PCI DSS, Sarbanes-Oxley, ISO 27001 and HIPAA.

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